The sad truth is that, by many measures, the public schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system are as segregated in 2015 as they were in 1957. Some argue that for most poor students and many students of color, the segregation that begins in the preschool years, the segregation that continues all the way through high school, perpetuates levels of poverty, underperformance, and hopelessness that affect many generations of families and communities.
Dot challenged us to join our neighbors and friends in service to our children, even if we don't have children of our own in the system. She challenged us to not get tired, to not give up, to keep working, as she has done, to mentor and tutor and walk alongside teachers, parents, and students on this exhausting journey towards an educational system that meets the needs of all of its children.
Following her story, we thanked her for her courage as a teenager and for her continued courage as a retired woman who continues to work on behalf of children that are not her own, but that belong to our entire community.
We asked questions.
We offered answers.
We listened to each other.
We challenged each other.
We shook our heads.
And then I prayed.
More accurately, I read a prayer that I had written earlier today.
Just before noon today, Lori Raible, the courageous, strong, beautiful, hopeful woman who invited me to be involved at The Well, asked (via email) if someone on the planning team would be willing to pray at the end of tonight's gathering. I immediately volunteered. She immediately accepted my willingness. Soon thereafter, as I pondered the topic for the evening, Being Tired of Being Tired, I began to pray right there at my kitchen counter. Suddenly, and for the first time ever, I felt the urge to write the prayer down. To type it up. My fingers flew across the keyboard as both the words and my tears flowed.
Because we were nearing the end of our allotted time, when I stood up to pray after Dot's story and our group's discussion, I had to leave out a few lines of the prayer I had written. Here it is in its entirety -
Tonight I am thankful for the community of people that gather at The Well.
Our world, our nation, our city - we are thirsty.
We need living water.
I am thankful for this group of people seeking to both receive and share the water of life.
I am thankful for the stories we tell and the stories we hear.
I am thankful for people like Dot and Lori and Joanne and Sandra and Mary and Anthony and Toni and Doriel and Erin and Kate and so many others who are walking this difficult road, who are tired of fighting the same battles over and over, but whose hope has not yet been lost.
I am thankful for their courage and their willingness to speak difficult truths to people who don't want to hear those truths.
I am thankful for the example they set for me to keep speaking difficult truths in settings where some prefer for me to sit in silence.
I am thankful for every opportunity to listen and learn - and also for every chance to speak and pray.
I am thankful for the God who has drawn us together and sends us out into this hurting world.